Peter Brannan was born near London on June 27, 1925. He joined the Air Training Corps at 15 and the RAF at 18 in 1943, and then spent many frustrating months doing training courses and odd jobs on bomber aerodromes. Eventually he “gained freedom” and in February 1945, he was on Queen Mary bound for New York and Canada. One of the fortunate few chosen to train in the States, March 1945 found him in Riddle Field as part of Course 25.
After some days lost because of illness, he was reassigned to Course 26, however, Peter did not get his Wings. In his words1, “I had been training for almost 4 years and it was not easy to see those magic wings slip through your grasp simply because the war was over. It was only later we realised how lucky we had been to be ‘the last of the many’”. Peter returned to Britain in September 1945 to be “re-mustered”. He lost his aircrew training status and the cadets ‘white flash’ worn on the front of forage caps (and the 7/6d daily flying pay!) and became an ordinary AC2; however, all was not lost as he was then re-mustered as a PTI (Physical Training Instructor) giving him the rank of Corporal and 8/- a day extra pay (more than he had as a cadet!). He was finally demobilised in June 1947 having served nearly four years in RAF Training Command.
After WW2, Peter worked as a reporter on the Harrow Observer moving to a Fleet Street magazine in 1955. With his family, he emigrated to Toronto, Canada, in December 1956 and became assistant editor of Canadian Aviation magazine subsequently being the editor for 10 years. He travelled extensively in search of stories including flying to the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line in the Arctic, flying on the inaugural Eastbound Comet IV service between New York and London in 1958, attending the Farnborough Air Show in 1960, being the first North American aviation writer on Concorde, and taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier. After leaving the magazine, he became the Editor of Debates for the Ontario Provincial Legislature (Hansard).
Peter’s time at Riddle Field was momentous. Arriving in March 1945 on Course 25, the first course that did NOT get their Wings, he saw VE and VJ Days and then the closure of the field, attended the Farewell Dance and was on the final train taking cadets northward. pursued by cars with waving (and sometimes tearful) young ladies. He returned twice to see the Riddle Field buildings before they were demolished. On Memorial Day 1985 (May 27), he arrived in Clewiston too late for the service at the 5BFTS Memorial, but while lunching at the Clewiston Inn, was quickly identified as an ex-5BFTS cadet and ended up seeing the museum and speaking to many people who had helped entertain the cadets between 1941 and 1945. But the highlight for Peter was meeting John Paul Riddle (“a wonderful young gentleman in his eighties”) who just happened to be lunching with his biographer at the Clewiston Inn as well.
Formerly a barnstormer and flying instructor for stunt pilots, John Paul Riddle was a pioneer in aviation history taking the controls only 17 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight. His career in aviation had taken him from the Embry-Riddle...
Units served with
The 'Arnold Scheme' (1941-43) and the British Flying Training Schools (1941-45), with the co-operation of Squadron Leader Mills DFC and President Roosevelt, enabled the setting up of flight training in the USA for RAF pilots to train alongside American...
||27 June 1925
||Toronto, ON, Canada
||24 June 2017